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    Western Michigan University
  Jul 24, 2017
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Graduate Catalog 2010-11 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics Education

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Advisor: See Mathematics Office,
Room 3319, Everett Tower

The Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics Education focuses on school mathematics curricula, teaching and learning mathematics, and research and evaluation in mathematics education. Programs may focus on preparation for mathematics education faculty positions in colleges and universities, supervision and curriculum development positions in school systems, or evaluation positions in education-related institutions.

Admission Requirements

Although a student may enter the program with a bachelor’s degree, most candidates for admission will have completed a master’s degree in mathematics or mathematics education and have classroom teaching experience at a pre-college level. Candidates must have a mathematics and methods background at least equivalent to that provided by the secondary mathematics teaching major at Western Michigan University. Those admitted to the program without prior K-12 teaching experience or without course work in teaching and learning will be required to obtain such experiences during their program of study. Admission will be determined by review of the following: a) academic background and transcripts, b) professional experience, c) three letters of recommendation, d) resume, e) written statement of at least 500 words indicating professional goals and purpose for seeking a doctoral degree, f) an interview with the Mathematics Education Faculty (when requested), and g) satisfactory completion of the general admission requirements of The Graduate College.

Program Requirements

This degree program requires a minimum of 90 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. Most students work half-time as research or teaching assistants and spend at least two years on campus. Assistantship experience is a significant part of the doctoral program. In addition to assistantships in mathematics education, other opportunities are available in mathematics and on faculty research grants and projects. Students are expected to satisfy the following program requirements.

1. Complete required course work:

  • At least 30 approved graduate credit hours in mathematics and statistics, including general topology (MATH 5220), linear algebra MATH 5300), analysis (MATH 5700 or 6150), abstract algebra (MATH 6300 or 6160), graph theory (MATH 6400), geometry (MATH 6490), and statistics (STAT 6120 or STAT 6620). The remaining courses are to be selected, in consultation with program advisors, from the 5000- and 6000-level offerings in applied mathematics, pure mathematics, and statistics.
  • At least six approved graduate credit hours in research methods including a course in quantitative methods (STAT 6620, PSY 6340, or EMR 6450) and a course in qualitative methods (EMR 6480).
  • At least 21 approved graduate credit hours in mathematics education including issues and trends in mathematics education (MATH 6570), psychology of learning mathematics (MATH 6580), research in mathematics education (MATH 6590), and two advanced methods courses (selected from MATH 6510, 6520, and 6530).
  • Additional approved graduate credit hours selected from mathematics, statistics, mathematics education, psychology, and professional education sufficient to meet the minimum program requirements.

2. Pass three comprehensive examinations:

  • K-12 mathematics curriculum and instruction
  • Psychological foundations and mathematical learning
  • Research in mathematics education

3. Acquire competence in two research tools.

This may be satisfied by demonstrating competence in computer usage, usually through 3 credit hours of MATH 6880, and in educational research methods, usually through completion of EMR 6480 and one of STAT 6620, PSY 6340, or EMR 6450.

4. Internship

Complete a Teaching Practicum involving an undergraduate course in mathematics or mathematics education at the 2000-level or above.

5. Complete and successfully defend a dissertation in mathematics education

Requiring 15 credit hours of:


  1. Upon admission a student will, within the first year of enrollment, work with a two-member advisory committee to design a Plan of Study for completing the Ph.D. At this time, any course requirements already satisfied through prior master’s level work will be determined by the advisory committee. After a tentative Plan of Study has been designed, one of the advisory committee members will be assigned to serve as the student’s advisor for program matters leading up to the formulation of a dissertation proposal. The Plan of Study may be reviewed and adjusted as necessary throughout the program.
  2. A student will schedule comprehensive examinations in consultation with the program advisor. The examinations in curriculum and in psychology will each be three-hour written examinations. The examination in research and design will be a take-home examination written over a period of one week followed within two weeks of submission by a one-hour oral defense conducted with at least two graduate faculty in mathematics education. If a student fails a comprehensive examination, the student must retake the examination within a year of the first attempt. A student who fails a comprehensive examination twice will be dismissed from the program at the end of the semester when the exam was taken.
  3. By the time a student has passed comprehensive examinations in curriculum and instruction and in psychological foundations, the student will take reading courses from a potential dissertation advisor with the goal of developing a proposal for dissertation research. Depending upon the nature of the proposed research, the student may be required to conduct a pilot study.
  4. As soon as a student has passed all three comprehensive exams and shown competency in the two research tools, the student will, in consultation with a chosen dissertation advisor, form a dissertation committee. The chosen dissertation advisor will become the student’s program advisor. The dissertation committee shall consist of the dissertation advisor, a second reader, at least one other faculty member, and a member from outside the department. This committee must be approved by the doctoral committee of the Mathematics Education Area Group. At a time mutually convenient to the student and the dissertation committee, the student will give an open public presentation of the proposed dissertation research and answer questions on the proposal. A student will be allowed to take MATH 7300 credits only after a dissertation committee has been formed and the dissertation proposal is accepted by all its members.
  5. After completing a dissertation and all other requirements for the Ph.D., a student will present an open public defense of the dissertation followed by an open question period. The dissertation committee will then meet in private to decide acceptance or rejection of the dissertation and defense. All committee members must agree on acceptance.

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